Tag Archives: Chef Pete Loren

Diet Cookbook Review 2013

It’s often said that losing weight (or just getting healthier) is as much about exercise as it is your diet.

And while you probably already know that a grilled chicken breast and a salad is better for you than a double cheeseburger with fries, creating healthy (and delicious) meals isn’t easy if that hasn’t been your normal diet. In truth, most people probably couldn’t make it from Monday to Wednesday with their current repertoire of healthy recipes let alone a week, a month or even a year. (It would help if they lived on Mercury, which has only 88 days in the year; the weather there is even worse than in Michigan.)

Here on Earth, many people just go online and search for recipes, and I’d recommend that if you’re searching for one particular recipe, you use something you already have in your fridge or pantry.

But doing ALL of your recipe research online takes a lot of time, and printing those recipes (especially if you really want those colorful pictures) page by page can be just as expensive as purchasing an actual cookbook.

And while both diet and exercise are important, you’ll get a much better cardio workout at the gym than from running from bookstore to bookstore to find cookbooks with great diet recipes.

Here’s where I can help.

There used to be a time when someone said he was going on “a diet” and it meant he was trying to lose weight. Today, diets mean many things to many people, not all of which directly relate to losing weight. Many, in fact, are more to do with health issues or “lifestyle” choices than with losing weight specifically.

Meat-free, low carb, low sodium, high protein, low fat, gluten-free, sugar-free and lactose-free are just some of the many subcategories of diet cookbook topics to choose from.

And while many of these cookbooks can introduce you to healthier recipes, which can help you to lose weight (if that is your goal), most, in my opinion, aren’t broad enough to be appealing to the average person who’d just like to be healthier–and perhaps, lose a little around the middle.

So I spent some time recently getting serious about my own diet and boning up on what’s out there on the shelves.

Here’s what I found that you might like:

Now before I begin, let me tell you that as a chef, I look for a cookbook with recipes that don’t skimp on flavor. At the end of the day, all flavor doesn’t come from things that are fatty, full of carbs or bad for you. In fact, most flavors are indeed good for you. So I look for recipes I know, from adding up the ingredients and proportions of each, will turn out to be flavorful.

Another thing I look for are recipes that are easily understood and that don’t require sophisticated equipment or time-consuming preparation.

Finally, I don’t like weird combinations just for the sake of being different. If I want weird, I know plenty of places where I can find it.

The world if full of weird. I see and hear it everywhere.

I just don’t want to eat it.

Ok, now you know where I stand on diet cookbooks, so here are a few of my reviews.

Weight Watchers NEW Complete Cookbook

(Fourth Edition)

Over 500 easy-to-follow recipes. Not too “gourmet” but dishes you and your family will enjoy. Many color pictures (60) with complete nutritional facts and analysis for each recipe. You’ll also like that it gives you multiple substitutions for various ingredients you can use to suit your tastes or use up what you have in the fridge. If you are in Weight Watchers or thinking of joining, this would pretty much be your textbook.

American Heart Association Low Fat, Low Cholesterol Cookbook


Over 800 thousand sold and in its second edition, this classic diet cookbook will give you lots of inspiration. From crab spring rolls to healthy entrees and luscious desserts, there are over 400 pages of easy-to-make recipes with great photography and many helpful tips. Definitely a resource well worth a shade over $20 in its spiral bound edition. You can find it even cheaper in paperback on Amazon.

Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2012 or 2013 Editions

(Hardcover is 432 pages)

From the nation’s leading epicurean brand, Cooking Light’s popular magazine recipes from the past year are brought together in this year-end publication to showcase what good food AND nutrition are all about. This book is a definite MUST if you love the magazines but don’t want to keep stacks of old issues lying about. Even better, rather than buying the cookbook itself, you can download it onto your Kindle! This book probably has the best photography of any diet book going. In my opinion, you’ll want to buy this book every year.

The Paleo Diet Cookbook


Perhaps THE most talked about diet plan/cookbook of the past few years comes from Dr. Loren Cordain. It is (in my opinion) a more clinical approach to dieting, and I found the recipes less inspired/exciting. The principles of the diet are great but the cookbook less so. Based on other reviews (besides mine), it’s a love it or hate it book.

Other VERY interesting and/or trendy diet cookbooks that really captured my culinary imagination and have some great recipes include:

The SparkPeople Cookbook


Meg Galvin and SparkRecipes editor Stepfanie Romine created this diet cookbook based on the same easy, real-world principles as in the SparkPeople diet program. There are more than 160 satisfying and stress-free recipes. I liked most of the recipes and own this book.

The Eat Clean Diet


Tosca Reno (trendy health and fitness expert) has some great healthy recipes and tips on eating clean in difficult situations, timesaving one-dish meals for busy moms and great recipes for on-the-go folks. It’s more of a “niche” diet book.

The Volumetrics Eating Plan


Sensible and simple are the two KEY words to describe this cookbook by Dr. Barbara Rolls, one of America’s leading authorities on weight management. It doesn’t lecture or overload you with “rules,” just great, healthy recipes. It doesn’t include a lot of recipes, however (only 125). But what I see, I like. I think you will too.

Eat More, Weigh Less


Dr. Dean Ornish definitely has the attention of people who are afraid that dieting = starving. Not so. While some diets rely on small portion sizes to reduce calories, Dr. Ornish’s program takes a new approach: abundance rather than deprivation. Better yet, he’s enlisted some of the country’s most celebrated chefs and 250 gourmet recipes to prove it!

I hope these simple reviews help you in your search for the one or two books that inspire you to achieve your health goals.

Good luck and good health in 2013!

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Recipes

Americans eat a LOT of cheese.

On average, approximately 35 lbs of cheese…

Every year.

Of all that cheese, mozzarella edges out cheddar as the most consumed in this country… (Pizza Hut, Little Caesars and Domino’s, you can stand up and take a bow…)

However, due to the enormous production of the “processed,” partially dried “loaf” mozzarella used by most pizzerias across the U.S., and coupled with pizza’s overwhelming popularity in general, fresh mozzarella cheese has become the forgotten cousin of its more famous pizza relative. In fact, the use of fresh mozzarella on a pizza is almost a novelty nowadays; its main use is in salads, appetizers and cold food dishes.

(And as a side note, if you want to taste just how delicious fresh mozzarella can be on a pizza, stop by Nino’s and pick up one of our awesome Margarita Take n’ Bake pizzas available in both white and whole wheat crusts.)


Just what is fresh mozzarella?

Fresh mozzarella is, exactly as the name implies, fresh. It’s generally white, semi-soft, higher in moisture content and traditionally eaten (if not immediately) within a day or two of being made (whereas processed mozzarella can be stored for as long as six months).

Of the many cheeses we consume on a regular basis, mozzarella cheese is relatively easy to make. As a matter of fact, you can take mozzarella cheese from milk to finished product, ready to eat in less than one hour.

In Italy, the process of making mozzarella is called pasta filata, which means the curds are heated in water or whey and then stretched and kneaded until smooth. The soft cheese is finally formed into round balls and stored in a brine solution.

What does mozzarella taste like?

The tastes of the two mozzarellas are “somewhat” similar but the first thing one notices is the texture difference. Fresh mozzarella is, well…let’s say…spongy and tender. You’ll also notice that when fresh mozzarella melts, the cheese is creamier than the chewy/rubbery processed mozzarella, which some people prefer.

Are all fresh mozzarellas the same?

Traditionally, mozzarella was simply “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” made from the milk of water buffalo raised in designated areas of Lazio and Campania, Italy. It’s believed that the idea of this cheese came from the Roman’s conquest on Egypt during Caesar’s rein, when Egyptian barges were pulled by water buffalo, and their milk used to make cheese for Cleopatra and her “minions. ” Mark Anthony’s passion for both resulted in subsequent gifts of water buffalo to Caesar in Rome, where they flourished (as did their cheese).

Which supposes a “6 degrees of separation” theory from Cleopatra to Chuck E. Cheese?

Today in Italy, this cheese holds the status of a protected designation of origin (PDO 1996) under the European Union.

As you might imagine, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is more “robust” in flavor and more expensive than Fior di Latte (mozzarella made from cow’s milk).

Still, there is something for everyone’s tastes and budget.

If you’ve never tasted fresh mozzarella or if you’d like to try a couple of recipes, we have some. Below are links to two recipes people at Nino’s have enjoyed for years. We’re also adding two new recipes that we know you’ll want to try.

From Nino’s Recipe Archives:

Mozzarella Salada Rustica
Tomato Mozzarella Salad (Caprese Salad)

Nino’s NEW Fresh Mozzarella Recipes!

Salvaggio’s Cobblestone Fresh Mozzarella Pavé

Serves 4

  • 4 slices Salvaggio’s, Pepperoni Jalapeno Cobblestone Bread
  • 8 oz. Fresh mozzarella (3” balls)
  • 4 medium Roma tomatoes, sliced ¼”
  • 3 tbsp. Roasted garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ cup Fresh basil, shredded
  • To taste Black pepper, freshly ground
  • To garnish Dark balsamic crème


  1. Lightly toast bread and place on a non-stick cookie sheet.
  2. Arrange 4 slices of Roma tomato on each slice of bread, then top with chopped roasted garlic.
  3. Slice fresh mozzarella cheese in ¼” slices, then cut into quarters. Arrange cheese over tomato slices to just cover.
  4. Sprinkle black pepper over the cheese and bake in an oven pre-heated to 375 F until the cheese just melts.
  5. Remove from the oven, top with fresh basil and drizzle lightly with balsamic crème.
  6. Cut into quarters and serve warm.

Fresh Mozzarella with Grilled Asparagus & Lemon Pepper

Serves 4

  • 8 oz. Fresh mozzarella (1” balls)
  • 2 dozen spears Fresh asparagus
  • 1 cup Grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp. Roasted garlic cloves, sliced
  • ¼ cup Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. Lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. Lemon pepper seasoning
  • To taste Salt


  1. Trim bottoms from asparagus spears as needed, spray with vegetable oil and grill on medium-high heat until lightly charred. Chill spears and cut in 2” lengths on the bias.
  2. Add all ingredients to a medium-size mixing bowl and toss.
  3. Serve as a small salad or part of an antipasto tray.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy fresh mozzarella? Let us know in the comments below!

Nino’s at the Fancy Food Show 2012

One of the GREAT “perks” of being the Director of Culinary Development at Nino’s is getting the opportunity to see, smell, and yes, taste all the new products being introduced into the marketplace by virtually thousands of different companies.

If you love food, (and we do), there was only one place we wanted to be on June 17th – 19th of this year, and that was the 2012 National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), otherwise known as The Fancy Food Show held for the 2nd year in a row in the nation’s capital.

What’s it all about?

The Fancy Food Show is North America’s largest collection of manufacturers and distributors from over 80 different countries, all vying for the attention of food buyers, and eventually, space in your pantry, refrigerator, freezer and (hopefully) your palate.

Acres of booths and displays showcasing 260,000 unique and innovative items compete for the attention of the over 60 thousand attendees with colorful displays, tempting samples, and occasionally, some pretty outlandish theatrics.

What goes down…(hopefully).

To survive the mayhem of a large food show, you’ve got to have a strategy, and Fred Rayle, Nino’s Director of Operations, and I know the rules, and the ropes.

This CERTAINLY isn’t our first culinary rodeo.

Skip breakfast (you’ll be eating all day), wear comfortable shoes (a MUST), take copious notes or you’ll NEVER remember where you sampled that Balsamic Fig Spread yesterday, and avoid the temptation of eating everything that looks good at, let’s say, Booth # 126. In other words, you have to budget your available appetite or else you might not have any room left for something really worthwhile at Booth # 5,641.

To get an idea of what our day was like, follow @ninoschefpete where I live tweeted our progress.

The “sofi”™ Awards

One of the highlights of each year’s show is the announcement of each year’s winners of the coveted sofi Awards (specialty outstanding food innovation). Each fortunate winner within the various categories proudly shows off his or her Gold or Silver “sofi” statue reminiscent of an Academy “Oscar” at his or her display.

At Nino’s, we give out our own Fancy Food Show awards,  and although we don’t really have a name for them (yet), the eventual winners are awarded something more important  than a statue: like space on our shelves…

So what did we find this year?

The list is long, so we’ll give you just a “taste” of some of this year’s great finds.

  • Crio Bru Brewed cocoa — just like coffee!
  • Sukhi’s Indian Cuisine Fabulous Indian-prepared dishes available in convenient frozen packaging.
  • Starbuck’s New, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.
  • Got Milk? Flavored drink straws for milk (yes, everything eventually comes back around again.).
  • The Modern Cocktail Miniature bottles of your favorite cocktail mixers…and yes, we have to admit, the packaging was pretty slick.
  • Real Beanz Ok, here you have it! Lifestyle Ice Coffee drinks…c’mon now, you know you’ve been waiting for this.
  • Chimichurri from Gaucho Ranch Nice to find a quality Chimichurri sauce that’s “shelf stable”….yum!
  • Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. A Lobster Risotto and Mac & Cheese you’ve got to taste to believe. Maine Lobster never tasted SO good!
  • Pistachio Butter!! If you love pistachios, you’ll love this organic, small batch pistachio butter!
  • Seaweed Snacks?? They’re coming!
  • Corkcicle…what the??  Think of it as a bottle cork with an unmeltable/ re-freezable icicle that is attached to the underside and immerses into your wine to keep it just the right temperature…never warm, never drips….never mind.
  • J-Burger Chili A terrific meal starter. Just add meat and you’re pretty much good to go to your own culinary rodeo….

Nino’s is always on the lookout, fork in hand, (at some of America’s great food events just like this year’s Fancy Food Show) to bring you the newest, the tastiest, and yes, the “Fanciest” foods and gourmet products from around the corner and around the world.

We promise that once we “digest” this year’s show, you can look forward to seeing some pretty tasty results.